By Faye Martins
In a sense, yoga is the perfect medicine for anxiety sufferers. The tightness of body, shallow breathing, and focus on anything other than the present that anxiety promotes is the antithesis of a dedicated yoga training session. Sometimes, a student who suffers from anxiety from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Generalized Anxiety Disorder will find that a class guided by a yoga instructor can be as or more effective as pharmaceuticals when managing their anxiety.
One of the most effective ways that yoga can combat anxiety is by teaching a student how to breathe properly. Anxiety causes rapid, shallow breathing that causes a person’s nervous system to stay on constant alert for imagined dangers. By learning to take deep breaths, a student can also learn how to minimize anxiety attacks by managing a key symptom of anxiety. Learning that an exhale removes emotional impurities helps students to feel as if they are letting go of the racing thoughts that they fear will never leave them. For students who suffer anxiety related to a specific situation, practicing equanimity will help them to keep their fears or other emotions in check regardless of the situation that they are in.
Balancing asanas, such as Warrior III are helpful in dealing with the anxious mind. Anxiety causes a person to worry about past performance and obsess over future disasters. Forcing both body and mind to focus on keeping balance holds the mind’s attention long enough to realize that there really isn’t any time left over to concentrate on anything but holding the pose. Standing poses such as Warrior II promote a sense of self confidence, which can help combat the feelings of inferiority that many anxiety sufferers feel. In that sense, a yoga mat can be a safe place for the student to feel empowered.
Savasana, or Corpse Pose is one of the most effective poses for helping students deal with their anxiety. Corpse pose helps to regulate breathing, which can instantly calm nerves. Yoga teacher, Sarah Ivanhoe, once advised students that when in Corpse Pose, they should be “busy relaxing.” This speaks volumes about the anxious mind’s need to constantly have a project or focus to concentrate on. Asking it to focus on relaxation gives the anxious mind an excuse to settle down and enjoy rest for the time that the student is in the pose.
The physical aspects of yoga provide methods for anxiety sufferers to manage their symptoms. Students can use yoga to combine an effective form of exercise and an emotionally safe place to quiet their racing minds.
© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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